D-Day: On January 5, House Republicans Begin Search for the Truth on Climate Science and Clean Energy

The Nicholas Institute for Environmental Policy Solutions at Duke University

In an editorial in the Wall Street Journal, Fox News Commentator Fred Barnes sees January 5  as D-Day, “when Republicans start to do business as the House majority.”

This newly empowered house majority will include Jim Sensenbrenner (R-Wisc.), who will be the vice chair of the Committee on Science and Technology and who has a history of attempting to investigate the science of climate change. Sensenbrenner recently called the scientific consensus on climate change a “massive international scientific fraud.” The Committee on Science and Technology’s jurisdiction includes scientific research and education, space exploration, clean energy innovation and climate change research.

Paul Broun (R-Ga.), head of the Investigations and Oversight Subcommittee, has criticized the  U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s determination that greenhouse gas emissions endanger public health and welfare, and has accused the Obama administration of “muzzling experts, limiting access, retaliating against dissent and systematically misrepresenting science.”

Science Committee head Ralph Hall (R-Texas) has also questioned mainstream climate science, and is a champion of fossil fuels. He recently told the Dallas Morning News his investigations of climate science could include subpoenaing scientists:

“I’m interested in the truth on that,” Hall said. “There are a lot of people who believe that a lot of decisions were made on the false statements of others. I’ll try to find out who those others are, and ask them to come before the committee. And if they don’t come before the committee, well, we might subpoena them.”

It’s Not Just the Science: The House Energy Committee Not Exactly Bullish on Renewable Energy

Fred Upton (R-Mich.), the new head of the House Energy and Commerce Committee, has spoken publicly against subsidies for clean energy, and recently penned an essay for the Daily Caller in which he wrote, “Since I am sure that the industry will never give up its free money voluntarily, now is the time for us to slash it on our terms.”

Upton has written elsewhere that in the U.S. we “need to strengthen our energy security,” and “without affordable, domestic energy supplies, America is likely to continue to face the geopolitical vulnerability that comes from being at the mercy of other nations for such a disproportionate share of our energy supply.”

On the bright side, Tuesday the House accepted the Senate version of the America COMPETES Act, aimed at increasing the budgets of the National Science Foundation, the U.S. Department of Energy, and the National Institute of Standards and Technology.

The Fight Against Greenhouse Gas Emissions Rolls On

The same tax extensions Upton rails against, which will subsidize ethanol and wind, are also going to subsidize liquid fuels made from coal, which generate almost twice the greenhouse gas emissions as regular gasoline.

Meanwhile, Sen. Jay Rockefeller (D-W.Va.) believes the new congress will be “much more likely” to vote for his bill, which could stop looming EPA climate change rules.

California Isn’t Waiting for the Feds to Take Action

California has approved rules that will create the world’s second-largest carbon market after the European Union, allowing industry and others to trade billions of dollars in carbon credits.” A substantial number of manufacturers still view the program as a disaster that will raise costs and hurt the state’s competitiveness,” reports Reuters.

March of the Polar Bears

A new paper says significant cuts in greenhouse gas emissions could save the arctic habitat on which the polar bear depends, but the state of Alaska is suing the federal government over its decision to designate 187,000 square miles of the state as critical habitat for the bears. Another new paper modeling the climate suggests that a small refuge of Arctic sea ice may persist into the late 21st century along the northern coast of Canada and Greenland, providing a vital refuge for polar bears and other wildlife.

Green Is Still a Smart Investment

Warren Buffet thinks green cars are going to pay off for him as an investment within five years. While the first sub-$30,000 all-electric-vehicles will begin to arrive in a trickle in 2011, and then a flood in 2012.

Companies are reducing their carbon footprint even in the absence of legislation, while a Spanish conglomerate closed on a $1.45 billion loan from the U.S. Department of Energy for a 250-megawatt solar thermal plant in Arizona. Another solar thermal plant in Nevada will store the power it generates in molten salts so that it can generate energy 24/7.

U.S. Energy Information Administration Projects Climate Catastrophe

The U.S. Energy Information Administration (EIA) Annual Energy Outlook is out, and it projects energy-related CO2 emissions are going to grow 6 percent during the next 30 years, a rate slower than might be expected, but incompatible with what the science says the U.S. needs to achieve in order to avert catastrophic global warming. The EIA projects that through 2035, coal will remain the dominant fuel for generating electricity in the U.S., and overall emissions growth will be stymied by various existing state and federal policies, “including appliance and building efficiency standards, higher energy prices, shifts in housing growth, and the continued transition to a more service-oriented economy.”

This emissions scenario contrasts sharply with U.S. promises for emissions reductions made at Cancún and the draw-down of emissions required to preserve a livable climate, according to NASA Goddard Institute for Space Studies Director James Hansen, and would “almost certainly commit the world to catastrophic climate change, including rapid sea level rise, extreme famine, desertification, and ecological collapse on land and sea,” argues Brad Johnson of Think Progress.

A New Spin on Climate Refugees

A nuanced piece in Slate asks what impact the fence between India and Bangladesh will have on an influx of future climate refugees.

The Climate Post offers a rundown of the week in climate and energy news. It is produced each Thursday by Duke University’s Nicholas Institute for Environmental Policy Solutions.